New Atheist Heat Rises on Philosopher, Thomas Nagel, for Praising Stephen Meyer’s ID Book, “Signature in the Cell” (2009)

Atheist philosopher, Thomas Nagel, is drawing rhetorical heat from his fellow atheists outraged over his naming of Stephen Meyer’s, Signature in the Cell (2009), as one of the year’s top books. University of Chicago biologist, Jerry Coyne, calls the book that Nagel reviewed favorably for the Times Literary Supplement a “creationist screed”, and Stephen Fletcher, a UK chemistry professor, is flabbergasted by Nagel:

The belief that we share this planet with supernatural beings is an old one. Students of magic and religion have identified innumerable varieties of them – gods, devils, pixies, fairies, you name it. A familiar motif is that they operate at the very fringes of perception. While the scullery maid sleeps, they are busy in the kitchen making the milk go sour. For a society with no concept of bacteria, this is, perhaps, a forgivable conceit. But for a modern university professor to take this idea seriously is, I think, mind-blowing.

Here’s what Nagel said about Meyer’s book that has set some New Atheists into a tizzy:

Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperCollins) is a detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter – something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin. The controversy over Intelligent Design has so far focused mainly on whether the evolution of life since its beginnings can be explained entirely by natural selection and other non-purposive causes. Meyer takes up the prior question of how the immensely complex and exquisitely functional chemical structure of DNA, which cannot be explained by natural selection because it makes natural selection possible, could have originated without an intentional cause. He examines the history and present state of research on non-purposive chemical explanations of the origin of life, and argues that the available evidence offers no prospect of a credible naturalistic alternative to the hypothesis of an intentional cause. Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.

That’s all it took. A modest blurb and—boom!—Nagel’s reputation as a respected philosopher may be in the process of dismantling. And Australian philosopher Russell Blackford, in one of Coyne’s blog threads, joined the pile on:

Sad to see Thomas Nagel bringing himself and his academic discipline into disrepute. However, he’s long had an anti-naturalist streak.

Will Nagel fight back? So far just crickets.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to New Atheist Heat Rises on Philosopher, Thomas Nagel, for Praising Stephen Meyer’s ID Book, “Signature in the Cell” (2009)

  1. As I already poit out, at least one christian also have some very sound critics on Meyer’s book. Ah yeah, I almost forget, this christian is also a Biochemistry professor at Seattle Pacific University.

  2. Pingback: Dueling Chemists over Philosopher Thomas Nagel’s Plug for Stephen Meyer’s ID Book! « Prometheus Unbound

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